Venezuela’s public health crisis: a regional emergency
The economic crisis in Venezuela has eroded the country's health-care infrastructure and threatened the public health of its people. Shortages in medications, health supplies, interruptions of basic utilities at health-care facilities, and the emigration of health-care workers have led to a progressive decline in the operational capacity of health care. The effect of the crisis on public health has been difficult to quantify since the Venezuelan Ministry of Health stopped publishing crucial public health statistics in 2016. We prepared a synthesis of health information, beyond what is available from other sources, and scholarly discussion of engagement strategies for the international community. Data were identified through searches in MEDLINE, PubMed, and the grey literature, through references from relevant articles, and governmental and non-governmental reports, and publicly available databases. Articles published in English and Spanish until Dec 1, 2018, were included. Over the past decade, public health measures in Venezuela have substantially declined. From 2012 to 2016, infant deaths increased by 63% and maternal mortality more than doubled. Since 2016, outbreaks of the vaccine-preventable diseases measles and diphtheria have spread throughout the region. From 2016 to 2017, Venezuela had the largest rate of increase of malaria in the world, and in 2015, tuberculosis rates were the highest in the country in 40 years. Between 2017 and 2018, most patients who were infected with HIV interrupted therapy because of a lack of medications. The Venezuelan economic crisis has shattered the health-care system and resulted in rising morbidity and mortality. Outbreaks and expanding epidemics of infectious diseases associated with declines in basic public health services are threatening the health of the country and the region.
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